Over the weekend, Bradford City fans were sad to hear the news that former Bantams goalkeeper Peter Downsborough has passed away.
The Halifax-born stopper made 225 appearances for Bradford City over a four-year period between 1974-1978. He had shot to national fame five years earlier, playing a starring role in Swindon Town’s shock League Cup Final victory over the mighty Arsenal at Wembley. Downsborough kept goal for Swindon 274 times. And it is fitting that Saturday will see City face the Robins, allowing both sets of supporters to pay tribute to a true legend.
Downsborough’s legacy at Valley Parade has twice been recognised in recent years. Firstly, in February 2017, our reader poll to find the greatest Bradford City goalkeepers in modern history saw Downsborough finish a very respectable fourth place. And only this summer, our poll of the 100 Most Popular Bradford City Players Of All Time saw Downsborough rank 31st. Tellingly, he was the highest-ranked goalkeeper – making Downsborough the most popular keeper in the club’s history.
As part of the 2017 goalkeeper poll, WOAP reader John Dunn provided an excellent account of Downsborough’s City career, and we make no apologises for republishing it here.
“As a youth he was a superb all round sportsman, shining at rugby union, cricket, boxing, football and swimming (he won junior honours in swimming and boxing). A centre forward for Halifax Boys, he was asked to play in goal when the ‘keeper was injured during a match. As fate would have it a Halifax Town scout was watching and was so impressed that he was signed almost on the spot (just think, had substitutes been allowed in those days this guy would never have had the career he ultimately enjoyed and City wouldn’t have been promoted in 1977!)
“After 5 years at ‘fax he was transferred to Swindon Town where he enjoyed the best years of his career, culminating in the defeat of Arsenal in the 1969 League Cup Final during which as I recall, it was himself versus the Arsenal strikers for most of the match until Don Rogers took a hand in the proceedings during extra time.
“Signing for City in 1974 (I could hardly believe it! City signing such a great ‘keeper with a top pedigree) he continued in the same vein, becoming a specialist at saving penalties (including a remarkable sequence of 4 consecutive saves), standing firm away against Norwich in a 1976 FA Cup match where he faced an onslaught from the Ted McDougall/Martin Peters led home side, before Billy ‘Goalden Boots’ McGinley scored 3 minutes before the end to secure a 2-1 victory for the Bantams.
“It took a controversial free kick from Southampton’s Jim McCalliog (later outlawed) in the quarter final for the eventual cup winners to put one past Downsborough, and even his final match for City had a touch of ‘Roy Of The Rovers’ about it – a 6-0 defeat of Crew Alex on the 28 April 1979, the very same team against whom he had made his debut for City in 1973.
“With a City career of 225 games played between December 1973 and April 1979 including 70 clean sheets, my nomination for ‘greatest ever goalkeeper’ just has to be the remarkable Peter Downsborough – local boy done good!”